|Judge Edward Smith is a U.S. Navy Captain|
This all started when Atiyeh, who purchased 5-acres at the southeast corner of this infamous intersection, received permission in 2007 for an assisted living center on lands set aside for a cemetery. But when he was unable to market it, he asked zoners to let him build luxury apartments instead. Denied. He asked again. Denied again.
At the northeast corner, site of a vacant home, Atiyeh proposed relocating his business offices. Denied. So he proposed a drug and alcohol rehab, a la the Betty Ford Treatment Center. Denied. Just east of that, he proposed converting the vacant Calvary Baptist Church into a drug and alcohol rehab. Denied.
Back at the southeast center, Atiyeh decided to develop those 5 acres with Brookside Drug, Alcohol and Psychiatric Hospital, which unlike his proposed rehabs, is a lockdown facility. More importantly, it's a permitted use. He needed no approval from the Zoning Hearing Board. But his plans were tossed by the Planning Commission at a hearing attended by approximately 80 people, most of them opposed.
"I haven't heard a basis for a denial. Not a single one," said an astonished Blake Marles, a Bethlehem attorney representing Atiyeh.
Judge Smith agreed. He concluded that the Planning Commission "improperly invaded the province of the City of Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Board by making a determination of whether the use is a permitted use ... ." So he's sent the case back, but not to the Planning Commission. Instead, it's going to the Zoning Hearing Board, which has never heard the matter.
Zoners already have two special meetings scheduled on October 16 and October 18 to deal exclusively with other Atiyeh zoning applications. They're going to have to schedule a third.
So far, there is no light at the end of this legal tunnel. But Judge Smith also happens to be a Captain in the U.S. Navy.
Maybe he can order a missile strike.
Judge Edward Smith Remands a Planning Comm's Decision ... to Zoners